Category Archives: Review

Junji Ito’s ‘Uzumaki’ Review

Written by: Adrienne Clark

Something is wrong in the town of Kurozu-Cho. Kire hasn’t noticed anything, but her boyfriend, Shuichi, is convinced that there is an evil in the town. It’s making him dizzy. He’s convinced; the town is infected with spirals.

Shuichi isn’t the only one who’s obsessed with spirals. His father has amassed a huge collection of spiral objects and sits and stares at them for hours. That is, until his wife throws it all away in an attempt to rid him of his obsession. Kire and Shuichi look on as Shuichi’s father screams at his mother. How could she do this? Then suddenly his mood changes. He doesn’t care about his collection because he says he can express the spiral through his body. And express it he does, by spinning his eyes separately in their sockets. Two days later, they find him dead, his body disfigured, coiled into a back-breaking spiral.

Uzumaki Manga Horror Comic

Thus begins the most quietly disturbing comic I have read to date.

Uzumaki by Junji Ito is an unexplained horror that chills even as you don’t understand it. The back cover calls it “terror in the tradition of The Ring” and yet I don’t see it as a fair comparison. I’ve never read the Koji Suzuki novel, but I have seen the films, and The Ring reads as a straightforward narrative. This story moves in, well, spirals.

This comic is all twists and turns without much narrative explanation. Uzumaki draws you in, pulling you along through unspeakable terrors, and then, just as you begin to think you understand the infection at the core of this story, Ito changes the scope. The town’s spiral infection is both mental and physical, internal and external, and seems almost personal in its manifestation. Some characters evolve physically, changing shape until their outsides reflect the spiral. Other characters devolve into madness, narcissism, and cannibalism.

The only rule, it seems, is that there are no rules.

This is Uzumaki’s greatest achievement. When a reader has no chance of understanding what’s possible then every moment is filled with terrifying potential.

And yet, the horror is balanced by the sheer beauty of the images created. Yes, they are disturbing, but you can’t look away. A woman’s hair curls and spirals upward, creating a mesmerizing and oppressive vision everywhere she goes; star-crossed lovers entwin their bodies until they are a distorted monster. These images are the driving force of Ito’s creation, and they are horror perfection.

The narrative moves along, stopping to explore smaller stories and ideas inspired by the idea of spiral infection. One of my favorites follows Kire in the hospital. While recovering from a previous horrific adventure, she uncovers a coven of pregnant women who are drinking blood, recently born babies physically infected with the spiral, and what exactly the “mushrooms” are made of in the hospital meals. I rarely express myself out loud while reading, but this sequence was an exception.

These small tales are often simple in their scope and are not always cumulative toward the larger narrative. The overall focus of the series is to watch our characters struggle as they try to escape their infected town, but many times a single issue will simply exist without any indication of how it fits in with the larger arc. These issues build a strong sense of place and verisimilitude. This world is not one of a singular horrific event, this is a world where horror is woven into every waking moment. An everyday occurrence like brushing your hair can suddenly warp into an unimaginable, life-changing situation. There is no warning and just when you think that you’re safe–well you know how it goes.

At only three books long, this beautiful manga was over too soon. But the images won’t soon leave my mind. And isn’t that the goal with horror? If you can leave the viewer with a perspective-changing image, you’ve won.
Infect your world with Uzumaki. I promise you’ll be glad you did.

Get it here.

Rating: 5/5

Uzumaki horror manga Junji Ito

Michael Moreci and Steve Seeley’s ‘Hack/Slash: Son of Samhain’ Review

Written by: Adrienne Clark

I hadn’t read all of Hack/Slash before reading this story line. Many of the Hack/Slash stories are one shots (a stand-alone issue with a story that isn’t part of an ongoing series) so it’s usually not necessary to have read every previous story. Son of Samhain (story by Michael Moreci and Steve Seeley) followed suit as a stand-alone mini series; however, you would do well to be at least somewhat familiar with the series when you dive in.

Let’s do a quick run-down of the 5-part plot.

Book 1
Cassie Hack is hiding from herself by working as a bounty hunter. In a former life she hunted a different kind of prey–monsters. When another infamous monster hunter named Delroy tempts her out of retirement, they find themselves in Mexico uncovering a monster (no pun intended) plot to bring to life the God, Attan-Soolu.

The perspective toggles back and forth between our monster-hunting heroes and Morinto, the leader of a group of monsters who spends most of his time waxing poetic about the plight of monsters. Humanity defeated them centuries ago and drove them underground. Now, Morinto is building an army to return to the surface and take it back

The climax comes when Hack and Delroy discover a mysterious kid being held captive by the monsters. The hunters fight to free him. He returns their bravery by biting Hack’s arm and running away.

Book 2
Morinto confronts the mythical god beast, who has been made only to destroy, and listens to no one but Attan-Soolu. Fortunately, Morinto has perfected his brain-controlling bugs. With no effort at all, Morinto conquers the beast. Now the god beast believes Morinto is Attan-Soolu and will what whatever this monster leader wants.

Hack and Delroy track the mysterious boy that ran away. It turns out that he has a murderous streak as well. His name is October (Ocky for short), and Hack comments on how familiar he looks.

Book 3
Hack and Delroy take a moment away from monster hunting to discover more about Ocky’s past. It turns out there is a reason he looks so familiar to Hack.

Morinto’s past is revealed. It turns out that his mother was a member of an occult organization called the Dark Order. When she passed she prayed to have her powers passed to her son. Between this gift of dark power and the god beast, Moritno is able to build the monster army he needs to go to the surface.

Book 4
The battle is on between our hunters and the monster army. While Hack fights to survive against Morinto’s mind control bugs, Delroy takes on the god beast all on his own. That’s all I can say without spoilers so, on to…

Book 5
Hack and Ocky (seriously, has there ever been a less intimidating nickname?) take a moment to reflect on whether they should return to the battle or make a run for it. They know what choice they have to make, and once they do, they hatch a plan to send the murderous monsters back beneath the surface. But, can evil ever really be defeated?

Our heroes drive off into the sunset even as a new threat begins to take form.

This fun, if somewhat basic, story puts the classic “Hero’s Journey” structure to good use. It leans heavily on the reader’s familiarity with the classic structure. This way the story can focus on action rather than character development.

The characters are delightfully simple in both their motivations and their dialogue. I say delightfully simple because that is exactly what I’m looking for in a story like this. Cassie Hack is a smart-mouthed monster hunter who never loses her cool. Her sarcasm and bravery fire on all cylinders at all times and can only be matched by her empathy when she meets someone in need. She’s tortured, too, but only in so far as it helps break up the actions scenes and give her a motivation.

This story centers around a potential monster war, This simplicity of character was a good choice to compliment the story. If the action had been complex, but the characters one-dimensional (or vice versa) then I would have questioned every moment. For example, in the course of a page Hack kills several dozen monsters. Had her character been more complex, I would have wanted a better explanation for her abilities. Maybe spend time with her showing Ocky or Delroy how to do what she does. But, as it is, she’s strong, they’re evil, done and done. Works for me.

What did slow the story down were several passages of Morinto pontificating on the state of evil, humankind, and his desire to rule. I understand that the writers had to give him something to do, and they needed to build Morinto up as a threat that the reader would find believable, but it didn’t work for me. When you’re going to give a character time to say something that’s meant to be profound, it better be a pretty unique perspective. Instead it just bogged down the story with something akin to a passage from a teenage goth’s journal.

The imagery (by Emilio Laiso) is spot on, with a focus on shape over detail. Every monster is bigger or badder than the last, making for a beautifully intimidating army. Although sometimes the similar coloring on the baddies would confuse me for a few panels, which would take me out of the story as I scrambled to make sense of who was talking and if I knew them.

Hack/Slash: Son of Samhain is a fun comic for anyone who likes the horror genre. Although this miniseries is without some of the more famous guest stars that people have come to love (check out the Evil Dead crossover for a really good time), it’s still a totally readable monster story. Killing monsters is what Cassie Hack does best, and it’s always fun to watch someone kill (OK, pun intended that time) at what they love.

Order it here.

Rating: 3/5

Hack Slash Son of Samhain

Reliving the Death of Superman (Review)

Back in the early 90s there were only a handful of books I could claim to truly love. Spiderman, Batman, The Flash and Superman made up my primary reading list. I adored those characters, each for different reasons. Batman channeled that dark side, Spidey captured the essence of youth perfectly, the Flash never slowed down for anyone, and Superman was a symbol of everything right in the world.

And then DC decided to kill Superman, shattering everything right in the world.

It was a tough pill to swallow, and it was a difficult story arc to make it through. Back then, before the story had been released as a collected graphic novel, we all waiting weekly for the next chapter in the destructive saga. And as each week passed, the feeling that Superman was doomed (pardon the… eh, screw it) grew. Superman’s demise felt imminent. No matter what he, or any member of the JLA threw at Doomsday, it didn’t faze him. The monster just… kept… coming.

Throughout the 150-plus page story we, the reader, break down as much as our once trusty heroes. Knowing that there’s something alive in this universe capable of completely obliterating the forces of good was jolting. Knowing that the men and women who occupied this fictional world were no longer safe left a dark cloud hovering over the masses.

Of course we readers faced no danger… or so we thought.

The real danger we faced, unbeknownst to us, was the loss of a legend. Was it really possible that DC could kill off the greatest superhero of all time? What could possibly fill the void left by the one and only Superman? The whole scenario seemed like a bad joke. But it wasn’t, and the DC crew would indeed decide to kill Superman.

Of course, the DC gang would find a way to bring the Kryptonian back to us in decent time. But that stretch in which Superman was nowhere to be found, was an uncomfortable stretch to say the very least.

Nowadays DC is running a different ship entirely, having rebooted essentially all of their major titles a few years back, labelling the project the “New 52.” There are ups and downs in the new system, just as there has always been, but it’s cool to see Superman still doing his super thing in 2016.

But whether Superman made a triumphant return or not, one can never forget the brilliant story written by Dan Jurgens, Jerry Ordway, Louise Simonson and Roger Stern. And I’d be mighty neglectful if I didn’t tip my cap to Jon Bogdanove, Tom Grummett, Jackson Guice and, again, Dan Jurgens who all illustrated this tale. And finally, respect to a gang of amazing inkers: Brett Breeding, Rick Burchett, Doug Hazlewood, Dennis Janke and Denis Rodier.

Without these sharp minds and hands, the Death of Superman could have been an epic misfire. Instead, it ended up being epic, just plain epic… and tear-jerking. Still one of, if not the greatest graphic novels ever to be published, The Death of Superman is mesmerizing, engaging, depressing and abysmal. It’s memorable and it’s infectious. There’s a brilliant hardcover release of the book which also includes DVD and Blu-ray copies of Superman: Doomsday, and it’s relatively easy to get your hands on the collection for under $20. It’s a purchase you’ll cherish.

Rating: 5/5

Death of Superman Cover

Throwback Review: Spectacular Spiderman #2

The first issue of this amazing Spidey spinoff featured a showdown with the menacing yet unintentionally comical Tarantula. Tarantula’s a fun character, though few Spidey aficionados would likely place the man on any “Best of” lists. The villain introduced in issue two however, has quite a different following.

Kraven the Hunter pops up in this book, and of course, that means he’s not only going to tangle with Spidey, he’s going to tangle with Tarantula, who’s still hanging around, as well. But, these two aren’t occupying the same space by mere coincidence. Tarantula was hired to kidnap chancellor Lansky, but he was also hired to kill the mayor, an assignment he botched. That’s where Kraven comes into play, to try and get the mystery man’s plans back on track. So, like it or not, Tarantula and Kraven are in this devious plan together, and the plan has changed. Kraven and Tarantula’s new assignment is to capture Chancellor Richard Gorman – dead or alive.

Peter goes through the normal growth process. Problems with Mary Jane, concern for Aunt May. Education, employment. Peter’s always going through that crap, and when he’s not, he’s going toe to toe with Kraven or Tarantula.

It’s a back and forth affair between Spidey and Kraven, all the while Tarantula delivers Gorman to our mysterious villain only to be double crossed. Whoever pulls the strings is sharp, and cautious.

Eventually the book comes – sadly – to an end, but not before an explosive and definitive conclusion to Spiderman and Kraven’s battle. Wanna guess who picked up the W in that rematch? Speaking of Ws, what’s next for Tarantula? Is he a goner, and will this particular story arc reveal the mastermind early, or will we be forced to wait for issue four?

Another amazing, classic book that comes to us courtesy of stud writer Gerry Conway and personal favorite with the pencil, Sal Buscema. Again, this really is a beautiful book.

Rating: 5/5


Dark Horse Delivers a Beautiful Aquatic Mystery in ‘Dept. H #1’ Review

Matt Kindt isn’t just a brilliant storyteller, he’s mighty sufficient with the pencil as well. The man can do it all, and he’s back to prove that to the masses with his latest Dark Horse release, Dept. H. An unconventional story by all accounts, Kindt drops us deep in the ocean to solve a murder mystery. It’s like Clue, in the deep end of the pool… except exponentially more rewarding.

Mia has been recruited by USEAR – Underwater Scientist Exploration and Research – to investigate a murder that occurred deep beneath the water’s surface, in a research station. While the majority of the inaugural issue doesn’t yield much in the way of significant revelations, it does succeed in introducing us to our immediately likeable lead protagonist all the while lining up the murder suspects. We know the man who killed Mia’s father is somewhere in the research facility and she’s made it a professional and personal goal to solve this mystery.

Kindt’s work has always been top notch, but to see him take to the ocean’s floor feels refreshing. One single issue in and I’m completely addicted to this stunning who-dun-it piece. From Kindt’s narrative to the unique artwork and complex characters, Dept H is an immediate hit for Dark Horse.

Issue number two cannot arrive fast enough!

Pre-Order it right here!

Rating: 5/5


New 52 ‘Batman – The Dark Knight #0’ Review

The zero issue of the New 52’s Batman The Dark Knight doesn’t really give us anything refreshing to contemplate, as it serves as the foundation for the origin of Batman. We travel back in time to Bruce Wayne’s younger days, picking up immediately after Bruce’s parents were robbed and killed. We see Bruce grow to be a young man, constantly tracking the murderer until finally, very near adulthood, Bruce learns that it was Joe Chill who killed his folks. And he didn’t do it as a hired hand, he did it as a broke transient in need of fiscal stability. It’s not quite the revelation that Bruce had hoped for, although it does prime him to become a crime fighter.

The book reads well, thanks to writer Gregg Hurwitz, who has more than adequate skills to let the narrative pull readers from reality. And Hurwitz gets solid assistance from Mico Suayan and Juan Jose Ryp who do amazing work with the illustrations. Together the three deliver a book that should have Batman fans eager to leap into new territory for the Bat.

The book gives us some great insight into the poverty that’s beginning to swallow Gotham whole, which should line us up for some very compelling tales in future books.

There really isn’t much more to speak on. This one is as straight forward as can be, but the talent behind the book certainly instills some hope for future issues. We’ll see where this group leans us.

Rating: 3/5

new 52 batman dark knight 0 cover

‘Dead of Night: Featuring Man-Thing #1’ Review

Told in old school EC fashion, Dead of Night #1 features a cool caretaker who guides us through a gritty gnarly tale of deceptions and monstrosities.

Ted’s working on a serum, similar to a serum used in WWII, and his goal is to create a drug that will transform man into murderous soldier; the unstoppable machine. By his side is Ellen and Eric, sent to the same remote location to see him through his work. But when Ted discovers there are other plans in store for the serum he panics, and Ellen – his soon-to-be wife and Eric, turn on him in an instant. They don’t give a damn about the man, they just want the goods. They want riches, and now that Ted sees the true motivation behind the operation, he just wants out. Not going to happen… at least not with ease!

When Ellen shoots a fleeing Ted, he’s got no choice; if he hopes to survive, he’s going to have to ingest the serum. He sinks into the nearby swamp, and in one final act, downs the super soldier serum. Hours later, while Eric and Ellen search for something tangible to take back to AIM, the shady company they work for, Ted makes a return, and the two see exactly what’s become of his serum… the effects are… monstrous, to say the least.

Eric and Ellen are brutally killed. Eric, ripped to shreds, Ellen, mutilated beyond recognition. Once a fine scientific mind, Ted is now a full-blown monster of the swamp land.

Stellar work here from writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who tells a vintage tale with modern day bloody twists. And one can’t look beyond the gruesome artwork of Kano and the absolutely stunning coloring of Javier Rodriguez! Amazing, gripping book right here!

Rating: 5/5